Claims of nationalized Cuban assets must be resolved

Claims of nationalized Cuban assets must be resolved

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) — A resolution of claims for compensation regarding seized U.S. property is part of the anticipation of the announced normalization of U.S.-Cuban relations.

U.S. citizens and corporations have certified claims on assets confiscated by the Castro government during its seizure of foreign assets, beginning in 1959. They include factories, farms, power plants and other nationalized assets, as well as cash, jewelry and artwork taken from escaping foreigners. The claims total over $7 billion, and the claimants include Coca-Cola Co., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Office Depot.

The U.S. embargo on Cuba was imposed, for the most part, as a reprisal to the confiscation of assets, and lifting it without attention paid to the claims may be illegal under U.S. law. Although the 1996 Helms-Burton Act has not been enforced by the United States, it states “any person or government that traffics in U.S. property confiscated by the Cuban government (is) liable for monetary damages in U.S. federal court.”

“Reestablishment of diplomatic relations will allow the U.S. to engage more effectively with the Cuban government on a range of important issues, including the claims of Americans. Resolution of outstanding U.S. claims remains a priority for the U.S. government, but we are unable to provide a specific time frame or details at this time,” a U.S. State Dept. spokesperson said after President Barack Obama’s announcement of the normalization of relations.

While cash payouts by the Cuban government are doubtful, settlements through exchanges for other investment opportunities are possible.

“I think a large flare has gone up over the corporate claimants. They are not going to miss it. I think it’s unlikely that Coca-Cola’s highest aspiration is to recover a state-of-the-art 1950s bottling plant. If people approach it with the right flexibility, innovation is going to be key,” Washington lawyer Robert L. Muse told the New York Times.


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